Two days before her body was found next to a trash bin in Southeast Baltimore, Annie McCann drank a cappuccino with extra whipped cream at a Little Italy pastry shop. She asked to try a cannoli and got a free sample.
A waitress at Vaccaro's recalled seeing the 16-year-old girl, describing her as "friendly and polite," a teenager who "seemed nice." Annie was with an older woman, and the two sat at table No. 8 for about 40 minutes.
This account comes from the notes of Davis W. Morton, a retired homicide detective who interviewed the waitress for two hours on behalf of Annie's parents and drew a sketch of the mysterious woman, hoping she could finally bring the answers the McCanns have sought.
Daniel and Mary Jane McCann have labored since November 2008 to find out why their daughter went to Maryland from their home in Alexandria, Va., and the circumstances of her death. They're still trying to convince Baltimore police that she was murdered, and did not take her own life, as detectives believe.
Last week, the McCanns held a news conference to voice their frustrations with city police and to announce a new lead uncovered by their private detective. They said the woman in the sketch has finally been identified.
On Thursday, a city police spokesman dismissed the sketch, saying it had been done with the help of a psychic. "In our humble opinion, it is not a credible sketch," said the spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi, adding that it can't be taken seriously because it wasn't done by someone in law enforcement.
The McCanns have repeatedly alleged that detectives botched the case, and have long felt that police have lied or misstated pertinent facts. They pushed prosecutors to go after the youths who took Annie's car after she died, and on Thursday they accused the state medical examiner of losing Annie's heart and brain after the autopsy.
Then they read the statement from Guglielmi about the psychic. "Where did the police come up with that?" Daniel McCann said in an email. "There is zero basis in fact for that claim."
On Friday, Guglielmi acknowledged he was wrong, saying it was a "miscommunication on my part."
"I will take the hit," he said, but added that homicide detectives have no plans to seek out the woman and interview her.
"There is just no evidence of murder, forensic or otherwise," Guglielmi said. "It makes it difficult to question people when there isn't any evidence to support a particular crime. We will certainly entertain anything new that points to a homicide."
Morton said in an interview on Friday that he has 20 years' experience as a police officer and detective in Montgomery County, where he retired in 1989. He said he has been sketching since 1972. "There's no psychic," he said. "There's no witchcraft involved."
The notes Morton took say that he interviewed the waitress, whom the McCanns did not identify, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on March 4, 2009. The waitress recalled seeing Annie with the woman between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Oct. 31, 2008. Morton said the waitress remembered because Annie had asked for extra whipped cream on her cappuccino.
Morton wrote that the waitress did not "observe any laughter or see smiling. She said the victim appeared to be doing all the talking. She said [the woman] looked like she wanted to be somewhere else. She looked tired and when witness did hear her talk, [the woman] spoke very softly and seemed to be very tired."
The retired detective called the McCann story a "phenomenal case" and said he cannot believe city police don't want to interview the woman he drew, especially if the McCanns have indeed found her. "Why would they not want to interview anybody?" Morton said. "They're trying to drive this case underground."
Annie's body was found Nov. 2, 2008, near a trash bin in the Perkins Homes public housing complex. She left notes at her Virginia home saying she was running away and that she had contemplated suicide but changed her mind.
The medical examiner ruled that the cause of death was an overdose of lidocaine but said a manner of death — homicide, suicide or accident — was inconclusive. Police concluded she drank a lethal dose of Bactine, which contains the drug, and said they believe she committed suicide.
The family vigorously disputes this finding. The McCanns, who have offered rewards and put up billboards seeking information, said in 2008 that they found a waitress at Vaccaro's in Little Italy who recognized Annie with the woman.
The McCanns said they recently showed the sketch to a woman jailed in Virginia, who identified the person as one of her associates.
Daniel McCann said he gave the woman's identity to the new commander of the Baltimore Police Department's homicide unit, Lt. Col. Garnell W. Green, but complained nothing was done.
"Colonel Green's initial, earnest assurances have been squashed from above," the parents said in a statement, alleging the "police hierarchy chooses to hunker down in denial."
Guglielmi denied Green was muzzled, and provided a letter the commander sent to the McCanns dated Jan. 17. Green wrote that he reviewed Annie's file to give it a "fresh set of eyes." Police in 2009 said they had stopped actively pursing the matter.
"We demand honesty and integrity," the McCanns said in a statement issued last week. "All we've ever asked for is the truth. No spin. No bureaucratic posturing. Just straight answers to straight questions, and a straightforward investigation."